Sunday, March 31, 2013

Speak Out or Stay Silent: A Response

The issue of same-sex marriage divides not only Christian believers and unbelievers. It has also manifested itself as division amongst Christians themselves. There seem to be two major camps of argumentation amongst Christians. Those who take a Biblical stance and declare homosexuality to be a sin; and those who declare that love conquers all, and that Jesus would have loved the homosexuals as much as He did the prostitutes of his own age.

The problem I find with many of the arguments from those who ascribe to the latter view is that, while they may use language that is ‘Bibley’, the phrases they use to support their position often lack any Biblical context. Yet because people may recognize the phrases, they assume that it must be truthful. However, when taken in context the verses often don’t mean what they are portrayed as meaning. This article will look at one such example from a Facebook status that was posted by Jeff Turner of Jeff-Turner.org

“Jesus never said that the world would know that we were His disciples by our stance on same-sex marriage, or by our stance on any other political issue. He said that they would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another. I wonder, do we express the burning love of God towards our brothers and sisters as loudly as we denounce what we deem to be wrong in society?”

The verse that is being referenced in this paragraph is found in John 13:35. In context, Jesus and the disciples are in the upper room after the Last Supper. It is important to know that the only people in the room are Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the women who are serving them. Why is this important? It shows who the audience of Jesus’ words are.
Turner asks, “Do we express the burning love of God towards our brothers and sisters as loudly as we denounce what we deem to be wrong in society?” The question that arises from this is, who does he consider to be ‘brothers and sisters’? There are only two possibilities. Brothers and sisters refers either to fellow Christians, or to everyone in the world at large. Turner seems to be concerned with the public perception of the way Christians treat people, so I have to assume that he defines ‘brothers and sisters’ as everyone. This would mean that he interprets Jesus’ words as saying that people will know we are disciples of Jesus by the way that we love every single person.

While this is, in a sense, true, this is not the meaning of Jesus’ commandment. This is demonstrated by considering John 13 as a whole. Jesus washes his disciples feet, all twelve of them. Yet verse 11 says, “For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” Jesus knows that there is one among them who is not truly of His flock – Judas Iscariot. Therefore He announces his betrayal to the group, gives Judas a morsel of food, after which Judas leaves to carry out his plan against Jesus.

It is after Judas leaves that Jesus utters these words: “"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."(John 13:34-35). Jesus gives this command to his disciples only. Therefore it means that disciples are to love other disciples, as Christ has loved the disciples. We are to show the love of Christ to non-Christians, to be sure. However there is to be a different kind of love that is displayed between Christian brothers and sisters. If Turner’s interpretation was true, then Jesus would have given this command when Judas, a clear apostate and unbeliever, was still in the room.

So in answer to Turner’s question, Christians should be expressing the burning love of God towards Christian brothers and sisters, this is true. But the implication in his line of reasoning is that showing love to everyone must trump declaring what “we deem to be wrong in society.” This is a dangerous statement. If it were true that people were denouncing what they personally believed was wrong with society I could understand the point. However it is not the personal opinions of Christians that are saying what is wrong, it is the Word of God in scripture that declares homosexuality and many other common practices of the day as sinful. To be silent about that is an injustice to the gospel, as will be demonstrated in the following paragraphs.

"Now, I'm not saying anything either way about any particular political issue, and no amount of cajoling will get me to. All I'm saying is that we have once more made a splash in the headlines, and it has nothing to do with our love for one another, and everything to do with our hatred for certain practices. I understand all of the, "Well, real love looks like speaking up", sort of statements, really, I do. Still, Jesus did not say that opposition to social issues would be the earmark of an apostolic believer. Rather, He said that it would be radical love.”

Unfortunately for Turner, homosexuality is not a political issue, it is a moral issue. So to call it a political issue and refuse to take a biblical stance on it is rather cowardly, especially in an era where the Christian voice of truth is being suppressed by those who actively promote evil. Today’s media is doing everything it can to normalize homosexuality and marginalize Christianity. Christians should not expect the secular media to portray us in any sort of positive light.

I ask, what is wrong with Christians expressing their hatred for certain practices? Romans 12:9 says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” We are commanded to hate what is evil. Should we begin to affirm other evil practices? Should we celebrate those who desire to have sexual relations with minors? With close relatives? With animals or inanimate objects? If you think I am being hyperbolic, think again. Christians will soon be fighting these battles as well, and with the precedent of same-sex marriage as their forerunner, I don’t think they will have as hard a fight to gain acceptance.

These are evil practices, and we are commanded to abhor them. Instead, under the guise of ‘love’ we are allowing the secular society to define the morality of these issues. With this generation being raised to see homosexuality as normal and even good, the Biblical standard of right and wrong is being pushed further and further away. And as long as Christians remain silent and refuse to stand up against secular ideologies being made mainstream, we will continue to lose our voice.

Further, Jesus never said that the earmark of an apostolic believer would be radical love. Such a phrase is not found in scripture. Jesus did however set an example for how we are to conduct ourselves with people who are caught in sin. Jesus came with a message of repentance. When people came to a saving faith in Him, his response was to tell people to go and sin no more – to turn from their sinful lifestyles and to pursue righteousness. If we are to bring a Christ-like love to unbelievers, we must similarly proclaim that they must repent from their sins.

Turner makes it out to seem that to proclaim a verse of scripture and to say that something is wrong demonstrates our hatred for certain practices. It should be noted that Jesus was also one to be vocal in His opposition of certain practices. In fact, he fashioned a whip of cords and drove out the money changers in the temple, quoting scripture saying, “It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN.” (Matt 21:13). Is Jesus being unloving to these people because he is declaring their actions to be wrong and quoting scripture to them? Absolutely not. Jesus has something more important in mind than the feelings of the people He has driven out, and that is the glory of God.

“You see, until you drink from the crystal fountain that is the Love of God, you cannot possibly radiate it outward to others. When all you know is sin consciousness, and prohibitive preaching, you can only radiate negativity, and speak of what you're against. Truth is, if all perceived sins were to disappear from society, most believers would find themselves without a voice, because the only things they ever make a fuss about is stuff they disagree with.”

I am not sure where Turner is getting this ‘crystal fountain’ image from, but this paragraph succeeds in eliminating the need for grace that he so expressly promotes in the following paragraph. Knowing the love of the Father is rooted in the fact that we need a savior. What do we need to be saved from? Our sins. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Turner says that prohibitive preaching radiates negativity. Why is this a bad thing? If people do not understand the depths of their own depravity then the news of a savior will not be good news to them. If we refuse to talk about sin to people, then what use is grace? People need to understand what they are being saved from if they are to understand the gift that is given to them in grace.

Again, I am not sure what point Turner is trying to make with his final sentence. It appears that the sole purpose is to bolster his stance that people ought not to be disagreeing with others based on what they consider to be sinful.

“My friends, until we are utterly possessed and captured by the love of our Father, we will continue to be nothing more than clanging cymbals, and noisy gongs. We'll get lots of attention, but will have absolutely nothing relevant to say to anyone. Zechariah, an Old Covenant priest and the father of John the Baptist, lost his voice throughout his wife's pregnancy, and only regained it when he agreed with her that their child's name was to be John, which means *GRACE*! I think that it's time for those who claim to represent Christ, who behave more like an Old Covenant priest class, to lose their voices, until they acknowledge that *GRACE* is the name of the game!” It's time for a whole generation to close their lips, until they learn how to speak in the context of God's radical love and grace! I don't want to be known for what I oppose, or for what I'm against! I want to be known as a man radically possessed by the Grace and Kindness of my Father!"

This is the most unfortunate paragraph of this entire presentation. It does not take into account the context of either of the stories it references. The first is 1 Corinthians 13:1. The entire section of 1 Corinthians from chapters 12 – 14 is Paul’s rebuke against people in the Corinthian church who have gotten swept up by the use of tongues in the church. Many were making themselves out to be more spiritual than others by their use of tongues. Paul attempted to correct this by requiring that for every person who spoke in tongues, another should stand up and interpret the tongues for the edification of the entire body. In this way, the body benefited from the speaking of tongues, not simply those who were able to speak them.

Therefore, Paul’s charge in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”, is still speaking to this issue of tongues. It seems a convenient phrase for Turner to use to prove his point, though, so let us examine further how this verse is being misused.

According to Turner, the love of the Father will prevent us from arguing in ways that will make us as clanging cymbals and noisy gongs. What is his definition of love? It appears to be that love is not declaring that a person’s actions are wrong, thereby permitting their actions. What is Paul’s definition of love? Fortunately this is found in the very chapter this verse is found in. It is many things as described in verses 4-8, but the key here is found in verse 6. “[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” According to Paul’s definition, if we are to love homosexual people, we cannot rejoice in their unrighteousness. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists homosexuality among other things as an unrighteous lifestyle. Therefore, someone who is not calling their gay friends and neighbors to repentance through the true Word of God is not acting in love.

It is tragic that Turner believes that those who would speak the truth have nothing relevant to say to anyone. I would have to say that a person’s eternal standing with God is something that is relevant to everyone. While people may not like the truth that the Bible has to say, that should not deter us from speaking the truth boldly. The remaining apostles all lost their lives because they would not stop speaking the truth in Jesus’ name – and that by accusing the Jewish leaders of putting the savior of the world to death.

Zacharias, we must remember, lost his voice while offering incense because of his lack of faith. He questioned the angel who delivered to him the news that he and his wife would bear a child. What is it that the angel told Zacharias the child would do? “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17).

John’s role was crucial in the preparation of the coming of Jesus. He also spoke about repentance, and bringing those who were living in disobedience to an attitude of righteousness. Though his name meant grace, that did not mean that he was not a fervent servant of the truth. John found himself imprisoned for precisely the reason that Turner is claiming we should not do. John dared to verbally declare that someone was doing something wrong: “For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." “ (Mat 14:3-4).

And here Turner would have us close our mouths, to be silent in regards to the truth, while countless numbers of people march straight into the judgment that awaits them. This while the Biblical picture shows a vividly contrary picture: people being offended by the truth of scripture and the gospel, and the messengers being imprisoned and executed for their faithfulness.

Woe to anyone who heeds this message! On the day of judgment you also will stand before the Lord, and he will ask you why you did not count the truth of the scriptures valuable enough to obey? How will you answer? Will you say that you were afraid of hurting people’s feelings? That you were afraid of the persecution that would come because people called you a “hater” for quoting scripture to them? Why are you not more afraid of the one to whom you will have to give account?

Christians are rapidly losing the battle against same-sex marriage. Part of the reason is because people are not willing to be voices for the Lord, and many are being convinced by people like Jeff Turner who encourages others not to speak out and garner the negative attention the media desires to give to such acts. But at what cost? How many lives will be lost to eternal punishment because of people who were afraid to speak the truth? How many opportunities to lead someone to repentance will be missed because of someone who didn’t want to offend someone with the gospel?

I leave you with the encouragement of Paul as he languished in prison. For though he knew the dangers of speaking the truth, did so with boldness. May you also speak the truth to those who are under the sway of the powers of this age with such a boldness that you will not fear the persecution that is sure to come.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cry Out to the Lord

The book of Judges is not an easy book to go through. It is definitely not the most positive and uplifting book in the Bible. When you mention Judges to someone, the images that are conjured up are those of Israel’s failures. 12 judges; a period of about 400 years later, and we see that the Israelites have still not learned their lesson. The final verse in the book reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” So even after all that the Lord has done for His people – delivering them from Egypt, going before them in battle against the occupants of the promised land, rescuing them from oppression over and over again – the Israelites still turn away from their God to serve their own desires.

There is a common view in Christian circles that the God of the Old Testament is the God of wrath, while the God of the New Testament is the God of mercy. The book of Judges surely removes this notion, and displays how God is unchanging – Yes there is wrath against sin, but there is also mercy in the book of Judges as well.

We may find it easy to look at the book of Judges and view it as the Old Testament history of God’s people during this specific period of time. We may believe that it is far removed from us, and that its words are not relevant to us today. However there is a message of hope in its pages that we need to constantly remember. This morning, I would like to look at the cycle that is found in Judges and help us to see the message of hope as it applies to us here in the 21st century.

We are not that much different than the Israelite people. How many of you have seen God do mighty works in your life only to forget them in times of trouble? How many of you have been rescued from bondage only to return eagerly to the very thing you were once delivered from? We can be just as stiff-necked as the people were thousands of years ago.

In the opening chapters of Judges, we read about how the Israelites were unable to drive out all of the Canaanites from all of the areas of the land they were to inhabit. Therefore they lived among them, and as God warned, their gods became a snare to the Israelites. We read in verses 11-13:

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. (Jdg 2:11-13).

God knew that if the other nations were not destroyed that His people would begin to integrate ways with the enemy. Instead of holding to His holy and right way, the Israelites began to adopt the practices of the nations that lived among them. They began to serve their gods, and abandoned the LORD who had done great deeds for them.

Is this not the situation that we find ourselves in? We are God’s people, and in almost all of our social interactions we find ourselves surrounded by those who don’t believe. This week it was announced that the population of the world has reached 7 billion people. Recent estimates say that about 33%, or 2.3 billion people or so adhere to the Christian faith. While Christianity may be the single belief system that has the most followers, that still means that there are 5 billion people with other beliefs that we share the planet with.

And we are just as vulnerable today to the snares of influence in the world as the Israelites were to the Canaanites thousands of years ago. Perhaps now more than ever. We invite other cultures and beliefs into our house every time we turn on the television or go on the internet. We are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements trying to convert us every day. And as far as religious beliefs go, the doctrine of relativism is the teaching of the day. Those who try to hold onto absolute truth are viewed as intolerant.

The people of Israel turned from their God to serve the Baals. So what did that look like then, and what does Baal worship look like in our world today? As it turns out, not much has changed. One author explains Old Testament Baal worship in this way: “Ritualistic Baal worship, [began with] adults gathering around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Men and women alike would then engage in [sexual immorality]. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of "mother earth." This author goes on to say that these aspects of Baal worship manifest themselves in modern day liberalism. The worship of fertility has been replaced by “reproductive freedom” or “choice”; Children are now sacrificed in the womb by means of abortion; and sexual liberalism is widely promoted.

Have some of these practices found acceptance in the lives of Christians? Are we, like the Israelites, guilty of chasing after the gods of the nations that surround us? I don’t think that many of us here would say that we have gone the way of liberalism, that we would embrace these practices as described here. But perhaps some of these ideologies have gotten in, in varying degrees.

Maybe we aren’t sacrificing our children in fires or terminating pregnancies. Maybe what we are sacrificing with them is time. Are we spending enough time with our children, teaching them about God? Are we helping them to grow in their gifts and skills. Or are we too busy with our work, or other activities? When they come up to you and ask for your attention, do you shoo them away, or tell them “later?” In the first message in this series, Pastor Mike highlighted the importance of spending this time with our children – are we making it a priority?

Maybe we aren’t engaging in the lewd practices of sexual liberalism. But are we giving impropriety and licentiousness footholds in our lives? Are we being careful with the media that we watch to ensure purity in our minds, in our marriages? Are there other worldly gods that we serve?

These questions are important to us today, because, as it was in the book of Judges, along with disobedience comes consequences. We read in verses 14-15:

So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. (Jdg 2:14-15)

As the Lord had warned them, their disobedience in joining in the practices of their enemies resulted in harm and distress. A number of times we read that the Israelites are sold into the hands of their enemies. The Lord strengthens the hands of Eglon, and God’s people are forced into service to this King. They are severely oppressed, greatly afflicted, and crushed. These are but a few of the descriptions that we read of the way God handles the disobedience of His people.

The problem is not just disobedience. When they are turning to serve the Baals, they are forsaking, or abandoning God. God explains the gravity of this to the Israelites in chapter 10:10-14:

Then the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals." The LORD said to the sons of Israel, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? "Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. "Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. "Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." (Jdg 10:10-14)

God reminds them of all of the things that He has done for them – deliverance from Egypt, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and others. Despite all of this, they abandon their God and turn to serve other gods. I imagine that it would be like raising a child, feeding and clothing him, teaching him how to walk, loving him – and then when he turns 18 he moves out, saying, “I have a new mom and dad, I’m going to go live with them.”

Fractured relationships are what result from turning away, from forsaking someone who loves you. Whether it is the children you neglect, the spouse you are unfaithful to, or the friends that you alienate, sin gets in the way of right relationship. And even more so with God. Our sin makes it impossible to stand before Him. When we turn our backs on God, He allows us to go into the hands of our enemies. There we eventually begin to feel the weight of the sin upon us.

There comes a point when the crushing oppression becomes too much to bear. After many years of serving at the hands of their enemies, the Israelites finally remember the God who rescued them from the land of Egypt. We read over and over again, “the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.” This word ‘cried’ is defined as ‘a shriek of anguish or danger.’ There is a sense of desperation as the people long to be free of their bondage to their enemies.

And God’s response is one of grace and mercy – He raises up a judge to deliver them from those who are oppressing them. Verses 16-18 say:

Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers. When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. (Jdg 2:16-18)

In spite of the constant rebellion, in spite of the repeated forsaking of His way to turn to the gods of other nations, God hears the cry of His people, and sends deliverance. He turns away from His anger and wrath and responds with love, patience, forgiveness. And after the judge delivers the people from the oppressive enemy, the land has peace for a number of years.

We may not face oppression from our enemies in the same way that the ancient Israelites did, but we still feel the weight and burden of our sins. And we have probably all faced this cycle of sin at some point in our lives. Like the Israelites, when we cry out to God, when we call on His name, He will send deliverance to us. We too can receive the mercy and forgiveness that he repeatedly showed to the Israelites.

And here we have opportunity to do something differently than the Israelites did. They were quick to return to the false gods upon the deaths of the judges. They continued on in this cycle because they would not remember their God who rescued them from Egypt. We have a benefit that the Israelites did not have in the palms of our hands. The word of God passed down and preserved. We can clearly see the consequences of a life lived in opposition to God’s will. Therefore, let us strive not to make the same mistakes as the Israelites. Let us maintain our focus on the one true God, and remain obedient to His will. Let us not turn to the false gods that this world so fervently tries to get us to worship

Today, are you finding yourself in the place of the Israelites? Is there an area of your life where you have forsaken the Lord, and have turned to serve other gods? Are you feeling the oppressive consequences of sin in your life? Cry out to the Lord. Turn from your sins and remember your God who has delivered you from bondage and set you on a path to the Promised Land. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And let us strive to remember, and not to forget as the Israelites did.

Let’s pray. Father, I thank you for Your word. I thank you that you have shown us the story of the Israelites as an example of the way that you want us to live. It is awesome that, though they were stiff-necked and constantly turned from you, when they cried out to you, you received them back into your arms. Lord I pray for the people here today. You know where each and every one of them is at in their lives. Lord I pray that you would strengthen those who have cried out to you in their bondage and tasted your deliverance. Help them to hold fast to you. And Lord I pray for those who have turned, even partly, to serve the gods of the nations surrounding us. Lord would you draw them. Help them to feel the burden of their sin, that they too would cry to you and be delivered. Lord we thank you for making a way for us to enter into right relationship with you, and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen

Monday, May 23, 2011

Does God Create People With No Hope Of Salvation?

Obviously this is a huge question. Behind this question lies the need for discussion on a variety of topics, such as the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. I could happily point you towards some reading material that could better answer these other topics, one being The Potter’s Freedom by James White, the book from which I drew the insight for my status.

I will, however, attempt the beginnings of an answer by using an illustration from the Bible. The book of Exodus details the mighty working of God to free His people from the cruel bondage of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Before Moses has even set foot before Pharaoh, we read these words:

[Then the Lord said to Moses]…"But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. "When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. (Exo 7:3-4)

Then follow ten plagues, after each of which we read either that Pharaoh hardened his heart or that God hardened his heart. When Pharaoh ‘hardens his own heart’ we read “as the Lord had said” (7:13; 7:22; 8:15; 8:19). This should be taken to mean that God is the one doing the hardening, because He had said in advance that He would be the one to harden Pharaoh’s heart (7:3). (For an in-depth look at how this is so, check out this sermon by John Piper).

The climax of the Exodus story results in the deaths of all the firstborn sons of Egypt followed by the cataclysmic destruction of the Egyptian army and Pharaoh himself as God brings the waters of the Red Sea crashing down upon them, after the Israelites have safely crossed on dry land.

Does God create people with no hope of salvation? I believe the answer to that question is yes. Why do I say this? Consider Pharaoh – Can we read this story and believe that there was hope of salvation for him? Can we believe that there was any chance that he would repent of his sin and let the people of Israel go? I do not believe that this is so, and the reason is given to us:

"For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. "But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.
(Exo 9:15-16)

God could have cut Pharaoh down at any moment. Yet He had a greater purpose in mind for him. His destruction showed the Israelites and the rest of the world God’s power, and caused them to fear His name. The destruction of Pharaoh resulted in the salvation of Rahab.

It is this verse in Exodus that Paul quotes in Romans 9 in response to a question that goes behind your own question: “There is no injustice with God, is there?” (Rom 9:14). Paul then goes on to explain the freedom of God, that being that "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION."

He goes on to say, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. “
(Rom 9:16). The “it” is referring back to verse 11, where this whole idea began, with God choosing Jacob over Esau – the “it” is referring to God’s purpose according to His choice, or according to His election. God is free to choose Jacob to be the heir and Esau not to be the heir.

Paul then follows with the verse concerning Pharaoh. God’s electing purpose displays His power, and also has evangelical implications – that His name would be proclaimed throughout the earth. He then says the same thing he said in verse 15 in the negative - So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires (Rom 9:18). To line them all up, God has mercy on whom He desires, He has compassion on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. God is free to act in whatever manner with His people that He desires.

Paul anticipates the objection that arises from such a teaching, thus he says, “You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" (Rom 9:19). If God willed the destruction of Pharaoh and so hardened his heart to the extent that he could not repent of his sinful behavior, then how can it be said that Pharaoh is at fault – after all, God was the one who hardened him to that end!

Paul response to this objection with possibly one of the most terse statements in all the Bible: On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? (9:20). In essence, Paul is saying that anyone, as a human, has no right or authority to question God and the way that He does things. God is God, and humans are not God, and therefore the attempt to accuse God of wrongdoing is invalid.

Then what follows is the key concept to the James White book I mentioned earlier. That is that God is the Potter, the sovereign creator of all things, including us humans. We are but clay in His hands, formed as He wishes to form us, for whatever purpose He wishes to form us for:

The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (Rom 9:20b-23).

One thing is certain from this passage: God has created vessels of wrath which He has prepared for destruction. He has also created vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory. How can this be taken any other way, than to say that some are created without the hope of salvation? If something has been purposefully created by God to be destroyed, what are we to say? We should note also that God does not create vessels of destruction without a purpose – these that are destroyed make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy. This is true of Pharaoh – His destruction, which was determined beforehand, was determined so that the riches of God’s glory would be known among the Israelites, as well as among the rest of the world.

This is where my status stemmed from. Because the question that often arises from this teaching is, “Why then should we evangelize? Why then should we pray for other people?” For if God has already determined who is going to be destroyed and who will see glory, then doesn’t that negate the usefulness of preaching the gospel to unbelievers? To which I give a heartfelt “No.” Quite the opposite – this should give us a greater zeal to preach the word to unbelievers. For we do not know whom the Lord will save. It is not our job to worry about who will be saved and who will not – it is our job to preach the word of truth in accordance with Scripture. Paul says in chapter 10:

...for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
(Rom 10:13-17).

We are sent to speak the word of Christ to unbelievers. That is our role, to which we must be obedient. Whether they receive mercy or compassion or hardening is up to God.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What Love is This, Part 6 – Chapter 7

The Disturbing Consequences

Sadly, the acceptance of this theory leads to a corollary that is even more unbiblical as well as contradictory to the innate sense of compassion that God has placed within even unregenerate man: that God could save all mankind but deliberately withholds from multitudes the salvation he gives to the elect. (p.122)

Hunt doesn’t give us any sort of explanation or definition for the word “elect”.  So let us take a look at it for him.

The most common usage we have for this word today surrounds the world of politics.  We live in a democracy in which the people choose the people who will govern the country.  These leaders are decided by a process called election, in which multiple candidates run against each other and the people choose the one they feel will best represent their views.

Election in the Bible is a little different.  In politics, the candidates themselves decide whether or not they will run. In the Bible, God decides the candidates.  Hunt has not yet dealt with the passages in scripture that explain election clearly – such as Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.

Before we look at those, it is worth mentioning that Jesus speaks of the elect in Matthew 24:

"Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. "Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. (Mat 24:22-24, emphasis added)

"And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Mat 24:31)

One of Hunt’s arguments in this section is that “God limits His mercy and grace to a select group.” Yet he fails to address the scriptures which point to the fact that there are two different groups of people – the elect and the non-elect.  How does the Bible describe the elect?

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:4-6)

This is clear and unmistakeable – He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.  This is the crux of the argument that Hunt has been trying to make – that all people have the ability to choose God. Yet Paul makes it clear that God has chosen us, and that before the foundation of the world.

Not only that, but He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. Paul adds the concept of adoption to further show man’s inability to come to Christ.  Does a person choose to be adopted?  Is it the child that fills out the paperwork and does all the legwork to find suitable parents?  No, it is the parents who do the work to adopt a child, not the other way around.  So it is with our Heavenly Father.

Further Biblical support for election is found in Romans 9, where Paul uses the account of Jacob and Esau to illustrate God’s sovereign choice:

…for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." (Rom 9:11-13)

Before the children were born, before they had done a shred of work, God ordained that the older would serve the younger. This so that there would be no doubt that it was God who chose who would continue the line of David.  God ordained it, and then He made it happen.

 

This verse in Romans also serves to eradicate the next argument that Hunt attempts to make:

Here we confront a major problem with Calvinism: its denial of God’s infinite love for all.  That God, who repeatedly declares His love for all mankind, would choose to save only some and leave all others to suffer eternal damnation would be contrary to His very nature of infinite love and mercy as the Bible presents Him. (p.122)

Does God really have an infinite love for all people? This sounds like something dangerously close to universalism.  Let’s see what the Bible says about God and hate:

The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. (Psa 5:5)

The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psa 11:5)

"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." (Mal 1:2-3)

We cannot say that God does not hate.  In order for Him to love, He must simultaneously hate.  It is not often that we hear that God hates a specific person, such as in the example of Esau.  But if God is to love something, He must also hate something.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (Rom 12:9)

In order for God to love good, He must hate evil.  And what is more evil than for a person to turn away from the God who created them to worship the things that He made?  Without the wrath to punish the sin, there is no gospel.

 

Even Sproul admits, “If some people are not elected unto salvation then it would seem that God is not all that loving toward them. Further, it seems that it would have been more loving of God not to have allowed them to be born. That may indeed be the case.” God’s love, however is infinite and perfect. It is therefore an oxymoron to suggest that God was ever toward anyone “not all that loving” and might “have been more loving.” (p.123)

I understand the conundrum that this kind of question poses.  I have dealt with this kind of question personally – If God ordains that a person is not elect and therefore condemned, then what does that mean? Is God wrong for condemning someone to Hell?

By no means. I think that those who struggle with this question need to take a serious look at the words of Romans 9:

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (Rom 9:14-23)

This is not an easy passage to digest by any means.  And I’m sure that it was not an easy thing for Paul to write.  But we cannot deny the authority of scripture.  Anyone who struggles with the question of whether or not it is just for God to send someone to Hell should consider this – we are but a speck of dust.  James says:

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (Jas 4:14)

We give ourselves far too much credit in thinking that we deserve anything.  When we consider the depravity of our hearts, we should be heavy hearted, realizing that the only thing that we deserve is to be cast into the fire, right here, right now. The reason? Because we do not ascribe to God the glory that He deserves.

We are a part of God’s creation.  He formed each of us in the womb, He is the sustainer of life. He has the right to do with us whatever He pleases to do.  If it is His purpose to raise someone up only to dash them against the rocks, that is His prerogative. And no one can question Him, because He is the almighty Creator.

Why does God bring destruction upon some? To make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory. We should not fault God for bringing His hand of wrath down upon some – for He does it to show his glory to those upon whom He has chosen to show mercy.  We shouldn’t feel angry when God destroys a friend, a loved one, a stranger, who has turned away from Him.  We should be awestruck, humbled, and thankful that He has shown His mercy to us who likewise deserved destruction.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What Love Is This, Part 5 - Chapter 7

What Ability is Needed to Receive a Gift? Part 2


Just as no special ability is required on the part of the endangered person to be rescued from drowning or from a burning building, or on the part of the imprisoned criminal who is pardoned to accept his release, so no unusual ability is required of the person whom Christ rescues from eternal condemnation. Thus, Calvinism’s very foundation in its special definition of human depravity as inability is as unreasonable as it is unbiblical.

I have already spoken to this section’s accusation of being unbiblical and have shown how Hunt’s free-wheeling with scripture has lead to misunderstanding, quashing his claim that Total Depravity is unbiblical. Now I will address this section’s closing paragraph and its claim that the inability to which he refers is unreasonable.

Hunt has offered us three scenarios by which he claims that there is no special ability needed in order to be saved from danger. A person who is drowning doesn’t need a ‘special ability’ to be pulled from the water. A person in a burning building doesn’t bring anything to the table when they are lifted on some brave person’s shoulders and carried out of the smoky den.

He then compares these scenarios with the ‘rescuing’ power of Jesus, saying that there is no ability required of the person who is saved

But wait a minute – there is a non sequitur in his argument here. The scenarios that he has offered assume passivity – that is that these people do nothing and are saved. Then he says “no unusual ability is required of the person whom Christ rescues from eternal condemnation.” I had to read this a number of times and mull over it a bit – because it sure sounds like he is arguing for Calvinism here. ‘Nothing a person can do’, inability, ‘Christ rescues’, sovereign grace. I think he means to say that salvation in the eyes of Calvinism is passive, that is a person who has been chosen from before creation doesn’t really need to do anything, because God will save them when He sees fit. But that’s not the position that Hunt is arguing for. He is arguing for a position of salvation that is active; that we do have some ability that we can exercise when it comes to our salvation.

So let’s take these examples Hunt has given us and activate them.

Is there something that a drowning person can do to save themselves? Well for starters, before they get into the water they can take precautions to make sure that they are safe – wearing a life preserver or taking swimming lessons. But failing those things, if they find themselves flailing about in the water, is there still not something the person can do? Sure, they could calm themselves down enough and try to swim to the shore. The only way that a person in this example would be completely unable to help themselves, even somewhat, is if they didn’t have functioning limbs or were already unconscious when they hit the water

Is there something that a person in a burning building can do to save themselves? Again there could be some prior preparation – an escape route that has been preplanned, as well as supplies – masks, fire extinguishers, etc. Even if the fire is raging, if they are conscious they could still attempt to make an escape, keeping low to the ground, with a wet towel if they can manage. Again, the only way that a person would have to completely rely on another to save them is if they were knocked out on the ground.

The prisoner example made me laugh because it’s just so ridiculous. Hardened criminals who show no signs of rehabilitation of course are going to be denied parole (and any warden who grants such a person clemency should take their place). It is not without much effort on the part of a criminal to show that they are deserving of freedom do they even be considered for parole.

So in each of these examples, there is something that the person can or must do outside of themselves in order to better their situation. The point of scripture is to say that there is nothing that a man can do in order to warrant him salvation. Otherwise you have a works theology, and we know that salvation doesn’t come from works, but by faith that is received as a gift from God.

Hunt, it seems, has completely missed the point, even in his own examples. We are the people floating face down in the water; we are the people unconscious in our beds from smoke inhalation; we are the criminals that don’t seek rehabilitation. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves – we are dead. We are unable to swim to shore, or crawl on the floor because the dead cannot do these things. This is why it must all come from Jesus’ sovereign hand – because we are dead and unable; and so that He gets the glory

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Love Is This, Part 4 - Chapter 7

What Ability is Needed to Receive a Gift?

Hunt refers to Romans 5:18 (Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.) to say that salvation is received as a gift, and that the only ability needed in order to receive the gift is the ability to choose. He then continues on to say something that he has said many times before – Something is not found in the scriptures:

But not one of the many scriptures that describe man’s depravity state that he is impervious to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit – or no one could be saved. Nor does any scripture declare that God convicts and convinces only an elect group.(p.118)

Hunt often in this chapter has made such sweeping, absolute claims that there is no scripture to support something that supports Calvinism – remember this was how he opened the chapter – but he is wrong.

Not only that, but he butchers a portion of scripture to fit his point that contains just such an example! Hunt writes:

In 1 Corinthians 2:7-16, Paul refers to “the things of the Spirit of God [which] are spiritually discerned…the hidden wisdom [concerning] things of God…which the Holy Ghost teacheth [which] are spiritually discerned.” The Calvinist uses this passage to support his idea of “total depravity” – i.e., that only the elect who have been regenerated can understand and believe the gospel. (p.119)

No, Calvinists don’t use *this* severely edited passage for anything. This is the passage of scripture to which Hunt used to fabricate his scripture with:

(7) But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (8) None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- (10) these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (11) For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
(12) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (13) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (14) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (15) The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (16) "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.


When the passage is intact, we can in fact see why Hunt would claim that Calvinists use this passage to illustrate Total Depravity – because when scripture is allowed to mean what it says, it is undeniable. Let us look at the latter part of the passage from which Hunt does his craft time with scripture in its whole state.

Paul, in verse 12, points out that there are two spirits operating in the world – the spirit of the world and the Spirit who is from God. So right away we can see that Hunt’s second issue with this passage is falling apart already. This verse implies that some receive the spirit of the world while others receive the Spirit who is from God. So there are indeed two different groups of people – Spiritual and unspiritual. And there is a reason for the receipt of the Spirit from God – that we might understand the things freely given us by God. What are these things given freely by God? His Son was given freely to us, and also His grace was given freely to us.

So it follows then that those who are of the spirit of the world do not have the understanding of these things. Now, Hunt has been arguing that it is by believing the word that people are saved (p.115). But who believes the word? In verse 13, Paul explains that he is imparting words unto his readers that are not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit. So here he is making sure to point out that it is the Spirit who does the teaching, and not men. But it is the last part of this verse that is most crucial – we are taught by the Spirit who interprets spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. So here is a clear scripture that illustrates that some receive spiritual teaching while others do not. The Spirit does not interpret spiritual truths to those who are of the spirit of the world.

This is made even more plain in verse 14. The natural person – that is the person who has received the spirit of the world – does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him. The contrast here is that where a person receives the Spirit of God there is understanding, but where a person is of the spirit of the world, there is not understanding of that which is spiritual. Now this is where the first part of Hunt’s argument above falls to pieces; and his sweeping claims that Calvinism is not supported in the scriptures are shown to be the lies that they are. (And I wonder, when he was writing this section, what was going through his mind as he omitted this part.)

…And he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. There it is in plain English – man’s inability to understand that which is spiritual. Now let’s work backwards to see that neither of Hunt’s arguments have a leg to stand on. Man is not able to understand the things of the Spirit for they are spiritually discerned, and instead views them as foolishness. This is because the Spirit interprets the spiritual truths to those who are spiritual, not those who have been taught by the wisdom of men. Those who are spiritual have received this Spirit from God and have not received the spirit of the world.

Total Depravity. Clearly scriptural.


I would say that it is funny that Hunt has defeated himself in this case by using the very scripture that stands against his beliefs. I would say that it is funny if it were not so grievous an abuse of scripture. Friends when I am trying to make a point using scripture, I have a hard time limiting myself in the usage of the Word. I often find myself reading backwards and wanting to include more and more verses in my example, sometimes to the point where the whole chapter must be read in order to get a complete understanding. I look upon this butchery of the word of God with disgust, for it is abuses like this that are tearing down the unity of the church. How easy it is to make the Bible say what you want it to say when you don’t let the Bible say what it actually says.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better"

What is boasting?

Boasting is “to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself.” Now, if you’re like me, whenever you hear someone boasting about themselves, it really turns you off. Maybe you’ve tried to have a conversation with a boaster and left it frustrated as everything you said turned into a story of how they did it better. Or perhaps you know someone who is always tooting their own horn.

Boasting should look unappealing to us because, as the definition points out, at the heart of a boast is pride. What is pride? A high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. So, to a person who is full of pride, boasting is a way to increase that pride – because if you feel good about something, and other people affirm you in that thing, its going to make you feel even better.

Now we as Christians know that we are not supposed to boast. Let’s take a look at some biblical examples to see why. The first time that the word ‘boast’ appears in the Bible is in Judges 7. Some background – A group of people called the Midianites have risen against the people of Israel and Gideon is chosen from the Israelites to lead the people against the Midianites.

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.' Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'" Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' shall not go." So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, "Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink." And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. (Judges 7:1-6)

Now God’s concern here is plain: There are 33,000 men in this army that is to face Midian. God sees that if everyone were to go down to where the Midianites were, that the destruction would be total – and also that the temptation would be there to say, “Hey! We did this! We destroyed the Midianites by our own hands” God seeks to eliminate that factor from this equation completely, by making it unmistakable that He is the one who effected the victory. So He reduces the number of Israelites that will go down to the Midianite camp, and He does this sovereignly. 22,000 return home as they are too afraid to fight. God reduces the army to an even smaller number in a peculiar way. God separates 300 from the remaining 10,000 by having them get on all fours and lap the water up like dogs.

(And two more examples of God’s sovereignty in this chapter – God tells Gideon if he is afraid to go down to the camp where he will hear something that will strengthen him to fight; which he does and hears something, just as God had intended. And the battle of the Midianites itself – the 300 hid in the bushes with little more than a jars, torches, and trumpets. Not a sword was drawn, only a large rabble was made, turning the Midianite army to turn their own swords on themselves.)

All of this so that Israel couldn’t say “We smote the Midianites with our own hands.” There is no room for boasting in this example, except to boast that God has defeated the Midianites.


(If you haven't seen the “Good-o-Meter”, please watch and then continue.)

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1Co 1:26-31)

Let’s remember this video – These people think that they’re pretty good. The girl and the African American are genuinely surprised that they were deemed ‘not good enough’. Each of their responses to the angels is a boast`- I tried to live a good life; I did good things to balance out the bad things; ‘I devoted my whole life to helping others.’

But the last guy – he comes up to the front of the line sullen, head hung in shame carrying the biggest, reddest file of them all. He has nothing to say in his defense, and sheepishly hands the folder to the angel. And then something unexpected happens.

A hand holds out another folder; the angel, clearly flustered, fixes his tie and takes the folder from Jesus. Jesus has stepped in and, by His authority, takes the scale for the man. You can bet that when this man is talking about his salvation to others, he is not going to boast in himself. He won’t say “I lived a good life and did good things for others.” No, he’s going to say, “Jesus picked me – out of a room full of pretty good people, He chose me to sit next to Him – me! The chiefest of sinners!”

That is how salvation works – God chooses His people. As in the case of Gideon and the Midianites, God choosing the people who would serve to fight, God chooses those who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul says it three times – God chose the foolish; God chose the weak; God chose the low and despised. Why? So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

He continues, Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus. Note that the ‘Him’ is referring to God – it is because of God that anyone is in Jesus and subsequently the items referred to in the rest of the verse – Jesus becomes in us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. It is only because of God that we have any of these things, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Now, once I heard someone talking about the authority of Jesus, and it was said that He has authority over all things in the universe. He spoke a fantastic truth – every facet and area of a person’s life is under the authority of Jesus. I gave an ‘amen’ in my heart when I heard that.

But then he said something that I don’t agree with because it didn’t fall in line with what he had just said about Jesus’ authority. He said that we must ‘invite Jesus into our hearts’. I disagree with this phrase, and the idea that we ‘invite’ Jesus into our hearts. Jesus has authority over my heart! Saying that we must invite Jesus in gives the impression that Jesus is standing at the door, knocking, powerless to do anything to save you – that is unless you invite Him into your heart. This isn’t a biblical phrase, nor is it consistent with scripture, based on another passage from Paul which illustrates why I disagree with the above statement:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2:1-9)